Gerbils in Our Wheels

So I wrote this post early this morning in a fit of unsleepyness at the end of a discouragingly long span of time since my last. And I figured that the middle of a "fulfilling requirements" class in between work and work was a fitting time to publish it.

Got sick of the marching band and lost my head I am the straw that broke the camel's back Sometimes you gotta let it all out

I see you talking but I don't hear words I'm just a gerbil in the wheel, caught

Sometimes you gotta let it all out

-Lovedrug

I finally got to see Lovedrug a while ago in the dingy basement of a record shop in Nashville. Michael Shepard and I spoke for brief moments next to their merch table (which he was manning) where I told him that he and his band inspired me and that he should keep fighting the good fight and that I would buy and have bought all of his cd's from eternity to eternity and all of that cliché nonsense that he has surely heard a hundred times before.

Phase 1: Inspiration Riding Triumphantly on her White Horse I watched and listened that night to songs I'd memorized as if they were new; I was inspired all over again. I wanted a James and a Thomas and a Jeremy to be equally as passionate about the things I am and to be pumped to play in a basement half full of 50 people who knew every word to our songs and to realize that's more special than an arena full of people who had just heard them on the radio before. I wrote and prayed and began looking for these people who could get excited with me about nerdy things like tone and music for the love of it and songs that were songs, not regurgitated formulas for a twisted commercial version of success (look at how hipster I sound right now).

Phase 2: The 100m Hurdles Nights like those are beautifully dangerous. They create a little bubble in the passing of time where you neither become tired nor regain awareness of the still-turning world outside of it until it pops. It lingers like remnants of a dream in the recesses of your chest so that you remember specific feelings rather than actual events that took place.

It takes a minute to readjust your mind's eye to reality. As it refocuses, people for a minute seem horrific like trees because they did not exist for the hour and half previously. Work reappears from the happy fog. The night air loses its shine and becomes humid and closes its gentle hands around your neck so slowly you can't feel it until it is too late and already choking you. You still have all of those papers to write.

However, the dream is still fresh in your muscle memory. It has embedded itself in that place where you won't and can't forget it, for it is all that tethers you to the moment that was suspended before you set out on your drive back to the desert of the real. But all of the sudden, upon arriving back home, the music will just have to wait until you turn in that portfolio and change that projector bulb and write those chord charts and collect that paycheck and run that mile a day in the spinning tire in your cage next to the water bowl and food bucket atop the bed of pencil shavings.

Phase 3: The Gerbil in the Wheel Months go by and you can't even so much as type words on the internet or scratch them out with a dying pen on paper. You can only hum other people's melodies. You never even pretended that yours were better or even good but they were yours. Stephen Crane captured the feeling perhaps better than anybody:

"In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said, 'Is it good, friend?' It is bitter -- bitter,' he answered, But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart."

But eventually you can't even partake of it, for all of your running on the wheel. For all of your changing of projector bulbs and fetching coffee grounds and showing up at class not to learn but to be counted present and your checking your pockets for the words that used to flow through you but now dangle like the carrot in front of a donkey tied to a mill.

And all the while your legs, and your heart, pump furiously.

Phase 4: Dawn A thought occurs to you: the wheel only keeps spinning because you keep running.  Your schedule is full but you take a chance anyway and all of the sudden you get new music (still not your own, but it's a step) and new people with whom to play it. People playing who love to play and people listening who love to listen. Your cage still functions without your constant treading on the rungs of the wheel and plus, now that rhythmic squeak from the joint is gone. You realize there is more to be attained.

The wildest notion appears as well: you don't even need that wheel in your cage. You just ran on it because it was there and now you question that decision in the first place. Don't get caught up with jogging on the treadmill if you want to run a marathon. If you were created to color, don't be content with the 12-pack of crayons. Don't even be content when you get the 200-pack with 12 shades of purple and twin sharpeners in the back. Don't be happy just because you get a bigger wheel - for it is still a wheel.

Horribly overused by teenage girls on Tumblr but relevant nonetheless:

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

We were created by a creative God to be creative, not complacent. Complacency is a slap in His face. You were given something that you love to do, so for the love of Him who gave it to you, do it. Don't write because you crave fame, write because unless you write you feel incomplete. The same goes for crunching numbers and hugging strangers and feeding orphans and smiling and teaching dogs how to jump rope.

If we focused half of our attention on the things we were created to do than we do on comparing ourselves to everybody and everything around us, think of what we could accomplish. Beauty cannot be found in magazines, it must be pursued. Beauty is felt, not seen, and anybody who tries to say anything else is sadly lost to a generation full of people trying to be something that they are not.

I have heard people who claim to love the same God I do tell me they are not good at anything because they can't draw pictures or play the piano or make a really really good milkshake like somebody else they've seen. They are envious not of possessions but of love. They have fallen into the trap that says unless people are listening they are not successful... even though the people they envy couldn't care less if people are listening or reading or tasting or not. We must stop treading our squeaky wheels in our cages and being content with it and we must start doing what we love because we love doing it, and we can feel the Almighty smile when we get it done. Play your guitar not so people can hear you, but because you must play it.

I can't help but think that God would feel closer to us if we'd quit running our individual acts of worship by people first.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>The Procession of the Simulacrum in Practice and Our Counteraction

>About a month ago I sent out an annoyingly large number of mass messages telling people to give me their addresses and I would write them letters.

I wrote around 40 letters. I wrote until my hand cramped. I wrote letters at 4 in the morning when I couldn't focus on the tasks at hand after the jittery stage of a caffeine rush had passed and the achey stage had set in. I wrote until I had no more words left to say. I wrote letters to 5 different states, to people I hadn't talked to in at least ten years, to old friends, to new friends, to family, to strangers. I formulated an Aristotelian logic proof about the existence of Santa Clause, condensed high school into a page and half of rambling, and stream-of-consciousness'ed about everything from the weather to my heart-wrenching obsession with Lovedrug. I filled blank pages with pieces of me and sent them on their ways. I may have even made somebody smile.

Although it may sound like it, this is not about me - something I have been working on quite hard lately. On the contrary: this is the nature of people. We live in the Facebook era, where connections are infinite but people are disappearing. We are reduced to icons. To thumbnail pictures and those parts of our ourselves we choose to share. I am no longer me, I am what the internet says about me; moreover, I am what I have TOLD the internet to say about me. We are forced to present ourselves as flawless to fit the flawless standards thrust in our faces, so we leave out the parts about how we sometimes get sad for no reason or we crop our bodies out of our pictures or call makeup beauty.

After we are all done creating these images of ourselves, we communicate through devices and with mere empty words with other people who have constructed hollow conceptions of themselves, making it not human contact but just contact.

Welcome to the desert of the real
to the great purge of humanity
to we who are not ourselves

So the stark interruption of ink engraved into a blank page, handwriting exposed, bits of our souls clinging to the ridges and wrinkles and tactility of the paper laden with character and passion intervenes in the terrible aforementioned procession. It bypasses all projections of who we want people to see and lays bare in a way only matched by coffeeshop conversations the intensity and beauty of who we are. It is as personal a thing you can do for someone in this day of anti-personal connection. It is, by today's standards, imperfect, and therefore perfect in its imperfection. We have a long way to go to reverse the heavy weight of conceptions and false perceptions of beauty, but if everybody started writing each other letters, I can't see how it'd be a bad start.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Disambiguation

>I am sitting in my chair in a towel, because I am waiting to get a shower until the clothes in the dryer are done tumbling so that when I am done they will be warm and dry and ready to cover my cold skin.

I bought a cd today too. It is a departure from my musical tastes of late (meaning primarily that it is not Lovedrug), and I welcome the departure of style if anything just because it is new material and it is a switch and a temporary break from the monotony that has become my minutes, hours, days, weeks. It is scary how fitting the title of this album "Disambiguation" is.

I perhaps do my topic disservice by restricting it with that "my" above, because I think I meant to address a broader audience than just my busy self.

Go to school for 20 years. Get a job. Do not live on the street. Walk on the sidewalk. Make enough money to eat. Give the rest of it to the establishment created by us. For us. That has forgotten about us. Complain about something and then realize how pointless complaining about that thing is, because it's done and you can't change it. Fall in love. Create. Recreate. Retire or die. Now repeat after me: I am free.

I think that the most compelling evidence for the existence of God to somebody who is in search of it is the system in which we are trapped. The little box of earthly, physical existence. Rich or poor, old or young, we are in chains, and I dare you to find somebody who would disagree with that. We are enslaved to time and to desire and to passion and to lust and to love and to sin. Each and every one of us. But just like there can be no dark without light to be the contrary, no rich without poor to be the opposite, no high without low to compare, the mere fact that we are enslaved means that there exists freedom.

But, since there is nothing earthly that we can do to break free of these chains, that means that there has to be a spiritual key to the locks. It must exist outside of time, because if it existed within time, it would eventually decay or rot or turn to dust. It must have no beginning because that would mean it would have an end. If all we know is the here and now, there must be an unhere and an unnow.

This is nothing new. Solomon knew it: "Vanity of Vanities! All is vanity!" "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Since the literal dawn of time the disconnect between us and God has been both the proof of God and the burden on His heart. Because the presence of the physical means the presence of the non-physical, or else physical would be nothing. It would have no alternative. And we know that this disconnect is the burden of God's heart because of the lengths He went to restore it. We live among sin. He dwells among perfection.

Beauty is not beauty without un-beauty. Pain isn't pain without pleasure.

So with all of this said, the part about God I mean, it should be no surprise to us that without Him life would be rather miserable. Without the assurance that there IS beyond this, I cannot fathom the shattering hopelessness that would accompany our steps. They would only see the horrid pattern described above. School.Job.Family.Kids.Love.Loss.Death. and they would feel extraordinarily trapped. Herein is the beauty of my Savior, the Messiah, the promised and received Christ. Because He dwells not inside of this wretched box, but rather His father is the one that holds it. And I can't get outside of it except through His arms...

Don't you see? If it were up to me, the highest I could ever get in the vast span of eternity is how far I can run. Whether you accept it or not, the same principle applies universally: the give and take; the idea behind there being no light without dark permeates literally everything. It has to, because things only mean in juxtaposition. God doesn't need your support to exist. You can deny it all you want but your belief or lack thereof is not what keeps Him around.

Rather it is His existence that keeps your disbelief around.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.